Duke Ellington

Centenary Collection Slipcase Edition

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All of these recordings come from unreleased tapes held until recently by the family or the Library of Congress. The Chicago concert dates from 1946 and as the earliest recording here it is not surprising that the fidelity is less brilliant than on the other concerts. Nevertheless, there's a wealth of great material, and the first set includes four tunes featuring Django Reinhardt on electric guitar. On the Cornell recordings, made just two years later, the band has much more presence, and there are numerous less--known pieces, although as if to make up for it, the second set ends with an eight--minute medley of the hits. Jumping to 1964, the London show features Cooties Williams on a deliciously, agonizingly slow "Caravan." The New York set, essentially a trio recital recorded the same year, really stands out. Among the highlights: the aching piano solo "Little African Flower," the four--hand Ellington/Strayhorn romp through "Tonk," and Ellington's taking the mike while Strayhorn vamps through "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" to explain how "by routining one's fingersnapping and choreographing one's earlobe tilting one discovers that one can become as cool as one wishes to be."

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